NetApp Returns to Its Roots With S550

The NAS vendor fills in remaining gap in midmarket product line.

February 26, 2008

Judy Mottl

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NetApp's StoreVault S550 for the midmarket not only fills a gap in the network-attached-storage (NAS) vendor's lower-end product line and fires yet another shot at Dell and HP, it illustrates the company's return to its roots, says an industry watcher.

The S550 scales to 12 terabytes due to a new chassis that allows for 750GB and 1TB drives, and offers support for server virtualization. It features integration with Microsoft applications via NetApp's SnapManager for SQL Server. According to a statement, one customer reports backup time cut from hours to seconds using the software.

"The midmarket is where the enterprise was a decade ago, Sajai Krishnan, StoreVault general manager, told "There is a growing demand for a reliable and easy-to-use storage device."

[cob:Related_Articles]"This product reflects how the small-business market's needs have evolved in just a year and a half," he said.

The S550 is the third product from NetApp's StoreVault division and an upgrade of the first device, the S500, which scales to 6 terabytes and debuted in 2006.

That device lets users handle data stored in a variety of major protocols -- including NAS , iSCSI SAN and Fibre Channel SAN -- all with one box.

Last November NetApp pushed out StoreVault S300 for even smaller businesses -- those with less than 100 employees.

Krishnan says a broad customer base exists for the S550, including the K-12 education enterprise, remote corporate locations and even light manufacturers.

"These microsegments have the same issues and needs," Krishnan said. "They don't have free time to spend cleaning out data for storage and they often don't have full-time IT guys to handle storage administration." According to Krishnan, the microsegments want high-quality working storage that's easy to use and reliable.

The appliance goes head to head against Dell's MD3000i, HP's MSA device and IBM's System Storage DS4200 Express. The SMB marketplace has caught the attention of nearly every storage vendor due to its growth expectations and increasing reliance on data for business strategy.

Pricing for the S550 starts at $5,535, and $1,999 for SnapManager for SQL Server StoreVault Edition.

A qualifying difference with the new NetApp appliance, says one analyst, is that the vendor has created a seamless, low-cost offering for those already housing its high-end storage products.

"It's a brilliant platform move as it's the perfect solution for the satellite office," Greg Schultz, president of the StorageIO Group, told "If enterprises have the higher-end devices in the main location, this device is the natural fit for the remote location or branch location."

When it comes to storage purchases, price point and ease of use are typically big aspects for the small-business segment, while easy deployment and setup is not as big a concern for the midmarket, notes the analyst.

"NetApp's offering common management tools, and functionalities tailored to the business without the enterprise cost." he says. Schultz says ease of use is a factor for NetApp. "Most enterprises would rather spend a few hours on setup if they know the device will save them 15 minutes a week for the next three years in terms of administration."

But the winner in the midmarket, and even the SMB space, will also have to provide something the analyst describes as "ease of acquisition."

"The one who wins this game is the one who'll let customers cut through all the noise and find the product they need, have it shipped, installed and up and running with little challenge," Schultz said, adding that the S550 marks NetApp's return to its initial product strategy.

"It's a bit ironic that 15 years ago NetApp started out aimed at the SMB and workgroup area, grew up into enterprise solutions and continued up the food chain and has now recycled back to its roots."

TAGS: SMB,Dell,NetApp,StorageVault,Storage

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